What do you say when #sequester eliminates your position?

Sequester (my adorable princess) is a very misguided attempt to do what's best for science and innovation (adorable baby goat).
A fine line between hugging and strangling. Sequester (my adorable princess) is a very misguided attempt to do what’s best for science and innovation (adorable baby goat).

Warning: this will be a personal post with not much in the way of explaining scientific wonders.


I had just graduated with my Ph.D. and was in the job market; ready for an exciting post-doc or a faculty position at a local community college. Full of ideas and enthusiasm, I was going to conquer the world and provide for my family. Little did I know Science had another idea. I applied instinctively for a Research Associate III position. “Science Writer? Hmm, sure, why not?” I thought. They wanted a writing sample based upon a recent journal article. I got a call for an interview and happily scheduled it in my calendar.

I was still on the research/post-doc bandwagon and didn’t think much of the science writer interview until I sat in that chair and talked for an hour about science. It opened my eyes to a whole other world. A world filled not with test tubes and media bottles but with a computer and an imagination. A long term goal of promoting science to anyone who cared to listen soon became a reality when I was offered the position. “You want to pay me how much? I would do it for free!” I thought.

I settled into my new home, an actual office with a window and two computer screens. I was living the American dream. I was studying up on previous documents the group had published; top quality, award winning documents. While waiting for my first assignment, I started a blog to tell the world all the wonderful science discoveries I was taking note of. The group was going through an usual dry spell. “Don’t worry, it will pick up” I was told. It was fall and we should have some meeting documents to work on first of the year (2013).

Thanks to the failure to reach a compromise in response to the Budget Control Act of 2011, budget sequestration took affect January 1, 2013. Austerity had reached American shores and it wasn’t pretty for science and innovation. No new programs could be organized and the forward-thinking science program managers were handcuffed to politics. “It won’t affect me” I thought. Operating on a continuing resolution also meant no new monies for programs…strike two. Thanks to the GSA ‘training sessions’ in lavish resorts, travel restrictions were placed across all federal agencies…strike three.

On August 13, 2013, I was told my position was being eliminated due to lack of work. My wife had just taken a administrative leave without pay from her position because we were days away from becoming foster parents. We also had just found out she was pregnant after a year of trying, including one (maybe two) miscarriages.



If you need a face to put with sequester, try my four year old’s.

15 Replies to “What do you say when #sequester eliminates your position?”

  1. I can’t ‘like’ this Mat – what is there to like, apart from your very accessible way of writing about, well, anything, it is all too sad. You have worked so hard on this idea maybe just refocus – don’t give up – I speak as an artist who has no choice but to continue my work despite little funds, as commissions are rare now as finances are too stretched for the perceived ‘luxury’ of art. I am selling my house and downsizing so I can continue my practice – there was no choice really. It’s usual for people to make some cliched comment about doors closing and opening, but that’s not what you’ll hear from me, only reassurance that you’re not alone in your struggle and try and stay strong. Wishing you the best.

    1. Thanks for the kind words, Jac. It is sad to hear about your situation as well. I think you are an amazing artist. I always have much respect for creativity and I will stay strong if you will. Thanks again.

  2. It’s the same in any ‘crisis’, first to go are the researchers and educators because they don’t add any ‘value’ to the bottom line. I lost my post just after the birth of my first son. In the end we had to move country and learn a new language. Best wishes to you and your family. Tom

  3. OMG! I can totally relate to your situation. Sequestration has put a major brake for young scientists and their careers. No one seems to care about it. The “Publish or Perish” attitude is not helping either. My heart goes out to you as a scientific colleague. Hang on there. Just, hang on…

  4. I am very sorry to see this–You are a very talented individual. Needless to say, Congress does not seem to want to take responsibility for its own actions. Hang in there–hoping you and your family see better days ahead.

  5. Oh, crap. I didn’t know about the job termination, Matt. Sorry, bro. Not sure if misery loves company, but many of my friends are in the same boat in the science marketplace. Hope you land on your feet. Peace, Ik

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